Sermon Transcript – Lord I Believe, Help My Unbelief

Series A – First Wednesday in Advent – Wednesday, November 30, 2022 | Pr. Chris Rosebrough

Welcome to the Teaching Ministry of Kongsvinger Lutheran Church. Kongsvinger is a beacon for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and is located on the plains of Northwestern Minnesota.
We proclaim Christ and Him crucified for our sins and salvation by grace through faith alone, and now, here’s a message from Pastor Chris Rosebrough:
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0:22The holy Gospel
0:29According to Saint Luke the first chapter in the days of Herod the King of Judea
0:34there was a priest named Zechariah of the division of abijah and he had a wife
0:39from the daughters of Aaron and her name was Elizabeth and they were both righteous before God walking blamelessly
0:46in all the Commandments and statutes of the Lord but they had no child because Elizabeth was Barren and both were
0:54advanced in years now while he was serving as priests before God when his division was on duty according to the
1:00custom of the priesthood he was chosen by lot to enter the Temple of the Lord and to burn incense and the whole
1:07multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense and there appeared to him an angel of the Lord
1:14standing on the right side of the altar of incense and Zechariah was troubled
1:19when he saw him and fear fell upon him but the angel said to him do not be
1:25afraid Zechariah for your prayers have been heard and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you shall call his
1:32name John and you will have joy and gladness and many Will Rejoice at his
1:39birth for he will be great before the Lord and he must not drink wine or
1:45strong drink and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb and he will turn many of the
1:51children of Israel to the Lord their God and he will go before him in the spirit of power of Elijah to turn the hearts of
1:59the fathers to the children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just and to make ready for the Lord a people
2:06prepared and Zechariah said to the angel how shall I know this for I am an old man
2:14and my wife is advanced in years and the angel answered him I am Gabriel
2:20I stand in the presence of God and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you
2:25this good news and behold you will be silent and unable to speak until the day
2:30that these things take place because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their time and the people
2:38were waiting for Zechariah and they were wondering at his delay in the temple and when he came out he was unable to speak
2:45to them and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple and he kept making signs to them and remained mute and when
2:53his time of service was ended he went to his home and after these days his wife
2:59Elizabeth conceived and for five months she kept herself hidden saying thus the
3:05Lord has done for me in the days when he looked upon me to take away my reproach
3:10among the people in the name of Jesus I’m reminded of that account when Jesus
3:17comes down from the Mount of transfiguration and he finds a kerfuffle you know how kerfuffles go usually
3:24people are talking loudly to each other there’s words going back and forth and
3:29there’s a little bit of pandemonium wee bit of Mayhem and what has happened is that a man has brought his young son who
3:37has a demon to Jesus’s disciples the ones who were remaining at the base of
3:42the Mount of transfiguration while Jesus Took Peter James and John up and they saw Christ transformed before their eyes
3:49and Moses and Elijah happen to show up but when they get down to the bottom the disciples who were left well the
3:56kerfuffle is going on and well they’re in a fight the Pharisees are screaming
4:01at the disciples the disciples are probably yelling back all because this fellow brought this boy who had a demon
4:07and they couldn’t cast it out and when Jesus shows up at this
4:15kerfuffle what ends up happening is the boy manifests the demon shows itself and the
4:22kid goes into a full convo convulsion I kind of Imagine It kind of like the Exorcist or one of those kind of movies
4:28he’s down there going doing whatever demon-possessed people do and Jesus rather than tending the boy
4:36tends to the father first you’ll note that fathers are important so Jesus said
4:41to him how long has this been going on and you can almost see the guy going you’re not doing anything yet you’re
4:48going to ask me we’re doing this now you know and so the follow says well ever since he was a small boy the demon has
4:54tried to destroy him throwing him into water and into flame and and he and then
5:00the fellow says this if you can help us please do and Jesus says if
5:06if all things are possible for the one who believes and the man blurts out
5:13Lord I believe help my unbelief
5:18it’s an important phrase and you’re going to note here that God does help our unbelief think about Zechariah think
5:26about his wife Elizabeth all right they started off life together probably
5:31fairly young back then it wasn’t uncommon for kids to get married in
5:37their teens because well the average life expectancy wasn’t all that long you
5:43know 40 ish if you get to 50 you’re really old right that’s that’s how
5:48they’re thinking at this point and so they started off their life together and they had their wedding ceremony just
5:54like every other young couple in Israel and it was probably beautiful the bride
5:59was gorgeous the the groom was excited they came together with the expectation
6:06that they were going to start a family together because this is what happens
6:11but no kids not one and back in those days if you’re not
6:18burying kids as a woman well as Elizabeth says in Our Gospel text she was bearing reproach
6:26among her own people the murmurings begin is there something wrong what’s going on
6:33here maybe they’re cursed from God maybe maybe God is angry with them maybe maybe this just goes on and on and on and on
6:39and on and well she has to surreptitiously raise other
6:44people’s kids it’s kind of a it’s a well it’s a bum deal and all of this if you
6:50were to think about it is kind of a big result of the consequence of sin but this is a common theme throughout the
6:57scriptures women who are Barren who then conceive she’s in good company if you
7:02think of Abraham and Sarah Sarah also she didn’t conceive until she was well
7:07advanced in years way past the age of childbearing and Elizabeth seems to be following suit
7:14but all of those Barren wombs of the Old Testament and hear of Elizabeth all
7:21point to that miracle that God’s going to do and bringing us the Virgin born son of God our savior and so what
7:28happened with well Elizabeth and Zachariah is that weeks
7:34turned into months months turned into years years turned into decades and somewhere along the line probably
7:42all along the line up until a particular point there were
7:47that just cut out that area there were prayers and their prayers were probably to the effect of Lord have mercy please grant
7:55us children and yet that prayer went on answered
8:02for a long long time and then Elizabeth well her hormones level her hormone
8:10levels went out of whack she started having hot flashes and then she was past the age she’s dried up
8:18that’s how this all goes and at that point all hope is lost and you just hope
8:25on finishing your course well but see God had other plans in mind God
8:31actually intended to answer their prayer but answer their prayer Way Beyond what
8:38they would have even imagined you see God is able to answer our prayers far
8:44more abundantly than we can imagine and he oftentimes does because God was up to
8:49something big if you think about the the Old Testament the very last page of the
8:56Old Testament of the Tanakh in the prophet Malachi Malachi my servant My
9:02Messenger is his name Malachi he’s God’s messenger he prophesies that one would
9:08come in the spirit of Elijah and a Malachi’s prophecy makes it sound like
9:14it’s soon it’s like just on the cusp and you get the feeling that with God what he thinks is soon is like nothing
9:21related to like what we think is soon I mean if if I didn’t know better I would
9:27accuse God of being late at times in my life you know if he had showed up just a
9:32little bit earlier things wouldn’t have gotten as crazy as they did but always and again God is never late he knows
9:38exactly what he’s doing and so 400 years after Malachi told that one would come
9:46to prepare the way of the Lord and they would come in the spirit of Elijah God took that prophecy which had 400
9:53years of dust on it blew the dust off and breathed new life into it God was up
10:01to something and he was up to something more than removing the reproach
10:07that while Elizabeth felt because she was unable to Bear children he was about to send the son of God
10:16he was going to prepare the way for his own son who had come to Earth for the
10:21purpose of taking away our reproach our sin our iniquity and reconciling us to
10:29God and to each other and so in a very classic Old Testament kind of way God
10:37then does something spectacular he sends the angel Gabriel what a great name by
10:44the way and Gabriel all right the Lord is my hero that’s a
10:51good way to put it you know Gabriel means the Lord is my hero you know it’s just like it’s a great name for this
10:57Archangel and so our text then begins that in the days of Herod the King of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah
11:04of the division of abhija he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron her name was Elizabeth they were both righteous
11:10before God walking blamelessly in all the Commandments and the statutes of the Lord now important to note here
11:16think the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to put this in here to make it very clear
11:22to every generation that would follow that the reason why Elizabeth was Barren
11:27had nothing to do with the fact that she didn’t have enough Faith or that she was somehow being punished by God both her
11:35and her husband they walk blamelessly in all the Commandments and the statutes of the Lord and they were righteous before
11:42God that means they had faith they had no children because Elizabeth was Barren both were advanced in years and while he
11:49was serving as priests before God his division was on duty according to the custom the priesthood he was chosen by
11:56lot to enter the Temple of the Lord and to burn incense over and again when lots
12:02are thrown the in the idea is Lord who is the one you have chosen to do this
12:08duty today and on this particular day well God chose specifically Zechariah to
12:15go in and burn the incense this is the time of the evening prayer let my prayer
12:20rise before you as incense the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice and so he goes in and by the way it’s
12:28always well a little bit of a scary thing to go in to the temple of God because
12:37you never know what’s going to happen and according to the Mosaic Covenant the priests who would go in to serve inside
12:43of the Temple part of their ephod was they had little Jingle Bells on the
12:48bottom of their of their vestments why because if God was not happy with what
12:54they did and they didn’t didn’t do it right God had the prerogative and well
12:59the right if he wanted to to strike somebody down and so you can always tell a priest
13:05hasn’t made it when you hear oh and what do you do you well there’s a
13:12rope around his ankle you just drag the body out and send somebody else in right
13:18you’ll know this is the days before OSHA right could you imagine the lawsuits today but yeah right you
13:27get the idea so you do not volunteer for these these duties instead you have to
13:33be chosen he’s Chosen and he goes in and you have to know based upon what an
13:39awesome thing this is that he is not doing this willy-nilly he’s a man of Faith he knows very well he needs to dot
13:46his eyes and Crosses T’s and make sure that he doesn’t do anything out of bounds so that he doesn’t displease the
13:52god displease God and here’s what happened there appeared to him an angel we know the angel’s name is Gabriel an
13:59angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense and Zechariah was troubled when he saw him
14:04and fear fell upon him I cannot make this point strong enough that is the
14:10standard operating procedure when a human being comes in the presence of a
14:15Holy Angel today when people say oh yeah there’s Angels everywhere I met one for lunch the other day they are lying to you okay
14:23and the way you can tell their life is how flippantly they talk about meeting with angels everybody meets with an
14:30angel in scripture their first thing that they do is their knees are knocking they are completely afraid and you’ll
14:36know what what Gabriel has to say he says first thing don’t be afraid
14:41Zechariah and then hear these words your prayer has been heard
14:50what which one you can almost what do you mean my
14:57prayer has been heard your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son we prayed for that three decades ago
15:06four maybe I don’t know we don’t know how old they are right we prayed for that decades ago
15:12you see but God doesn’t forget our prayers the prayer of a righteous one
15:20precious in the sight of God and so these words actually should help
15:25us see a little bit of something that we need to keep in mind and that is that God hears our prayers does it feel like
15:33when you pray your prayers bounce off the ceiling does it feel like when you pray God hasn’t heard you have you
15:40prayed and wondered where is he he’s heard your prayers
15:45he knows exactly what he’s doing and the suffering that you may you may be going through is still designed to
15:53create a new character and Hope that’s the purpose of these things so do
15:59not cast away your faith in God because God hasn’t answered your prayer in which
16:05you believe is a timely manner it may be that he is going to answer
16:10your prayer at a time and in a way that you would have never even foresaw
16:16foresaw so the angel said to him don’t be afraid your prayers have been heard your wife
16:21Elizabeth will bear a son you shall call his name John and you will have joy and
16:29gladness and many Will Rejoice at his birth for he will be great before the
16:35Lord and he must not drink wine or strong drink and he will be filled with
16:40the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb and he will turn many of the
16:46children of Israel to the Lord their God and he will go before him and the spirit
16:51and the power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children the disobedient to the wisdom of the
16:58just to make ready for the Lord a people who are prepared
17:05ah prepare the way of the Lord now this coming Sunday we’re going to hear the
17:10preaching of John the Baptist and I must confess by today’s standards it’s a wee
17:15bit bumpy somewhat rough Politically Incorrect extremely
17:21necessary yes because to make ready a people who are
17:26prepared for the lord requires God’s law to go out and to
17:32confront people in their faces with their iniquity with their sin with their
17:38hard-heartedness with their false religion their idolatry and all the ways in which they are guilty before God it
17:47is necessary because before the gospel comes the law must convict us of our sin
17:53and exactly what Gabriel said would happen is exactly what happened because
18:00Gabriel wasn’t giving these words because he was sharing his opinion with Zechariah he was sent from God with an
18:08actual message and he delivered the message and When God Says is going to happen is going to happen and nobody can
18:15stop it and nobody can turn away the words of God his words cannot be broken
18:21and we take solace in this so Zechariah upon hearing this amazing
18:30amazing word from God delivered by the Archangel Gabriel Gabriel by the way
18:36also showed up in the Old Testament twice in the Book of Daniel he shows up
18:42he actually explained a vision to Daniel in Channel chapter 9 and was there in
18:49Daniel chapter eight this is well known Angel so it wasn’t just stand old angel
18:54this is the one that actually spoke to Daniel and rather than sit there and go this is amazing praise God thank you
19:02Lord for hearing my prayer Zechariah goes well how shall I know
19:09this for I’m an old man and my wife is advanced in years
19:16is anything too hard for the Lord are you familiar with what happened with
19:22Sarah what about uh Samson’s mother how
19:27about Hannah right there’s great examples in the Old Testament why are you doubting this you were experiencing
19:34the fear of being in the presence of the Angel and now you’re kind of going well I don’t know
19:41who does this well the reality is is that I think we
19:47all do this he said they’re going well I haven’t had an angel appear to me yeah I know neither have I but I think we have
19:53something a little stronger than that we have the eyewitness accounts of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ on
20:00the third day after he was crucified under Pontius Pilate and you know what a big doubt that people struggle with as
20:07Christians I don’t know if God can really forgive me seriously
20:13Jesus is risen from the dead and you have doubts regarding that well you don’t understand what I’ve done
20:19it’s so really no I do and so you’ll note we struggle along
20:25these lines and what happens next I think is a kind punishment Lord I
20:33believe help my unbelief right so Gabriel you can almost hear the indignation in his voice but he’s there
20:41to deliver good news he’s not there to Smite Gabe to Smite Zechariah Zechariah
20:47didn’t fall over dead and the Jingle Bells go off and then having to drag his corpse out that he was kind to him in
20:52that sense instead the angel answered him and said and you can just see this I am Gabriel
21:00I stand in the presence of God right you can always hear this the indignation and
21:06I was sent to speak to you to bring you this good news and this is great news do
21:12you not recognize the significance of what it is I just told you your son is
21:17the Fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy the very last page of the Tanakh and ah
21:24right you can just hear Gabriel right
21:29and he says all right behold you’re going to be silent and unable to
21:35speak until the day that these things take place because you did not believe
21:40my words which we will will be fulfilled in their time
21:45so at this point Zechariah isn’t believing it he’s not trusting the angel
21:50Gabriel Gabriel says fine silence not a word from you
21:58for nine whole months Lord I believe
22:06help my unbelief and at the end of those nine months I do find it fascinating
22:11that wow Zechariah is a full-blown believer
22:18I would have to fast forward a little bit so he’s not able to talk but here’s
22:24the account then of the birth of John the Baptist later in this text now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth
22:30and she bore a son just like the angel Gabriel said surprise surprise they
22:36didn’t even have to like have an ultrasound to figure out the sex of the child they knew before he was even
22:42conceived that it was going to be a boy right and she bore a son uh-huh and by
22:48the way Zechariah no talking up to this point and her neighbors and her
22:54relatives heard that the Lord had shown great Mercy to her and they rejoiced
23:00with her just like the angel Gabriel said I’m seeing a pattern here God
23:07speaks and look at it happens right so on the Eighth Day ah that Eighth Day
23:12stuff is important first day of the new creation right they came to circumcise the child and they would have called him
23:19Zechariah after his father but his mother answered no
23:24He Shall be Called John and now Zechariah is not able to speak
23:30at this point right so you’ll note that Elizabeth she’s standing her ground she
23:35knows that his name is going to be John how has she figured out because well good old Zechariah had to scrawl it out
23:42for her you know that he had like a little wax tablet and the angel said to me and this had to take forever right
23:48his name is going to be John and you could just see her going ah this is great no his name is John so she’s heard
23:55the word of the Lord at this point and remember the angel is helping his unbelief so they said to her well none
24:01of your relatives is called this name and so they made signs to his father
24:06we’re going to talk some sense into you Elizabeth let’s let’s go to the patriarchy what do you have to say okay
24:13they want what inquiring what he wanted him to be called he asked for writing
24:18tablet and he wrote his name
24:23is John
24:29and they all wondered and immediately his mouth was opened
24:34and his tongue was loosed and listen to the words that come out of
24:40his mouth he spoke blessing to God you see although the angel Gabriel
24:47silenced him it was to help his unbelief and now Zechariah fulfills part of the
24:54words of the good news that were given by the angel Gabriel and he says blessed
24:59be the Lord God the maker of heaven and earth now fear Came Upon all the neighbors and these things were talked
25:05about through all the Hill Country of Judea and all who heard them laid them up in their heart saying what then will
25:13this child be for the hand of the Lord was with him
25:19and brothers and sisters as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our savior
25:25let us hear the words of scripture let us hear the words of John the Baptist
25:31that come they’re coming on Sunday and let us not turn away from them let us
25:36not say what a crazy loon this guy is what kind of diet is it that he’s eating
25:42and what is our what’s that uniform that he’s wearing let us not be offended by his words because as the angel Gabriel
25:49said he is the one whom God sent to prepare the way of the Lord and he is
25:55coming this Sunday to prepare us for the coming of Christ
26:03he will not be here physically but his sermon will be preached
26:09his message will be here and I assure you
26:15if you do not turn away if you take heart and take heed you are well
26:20prepared for the arrival of Jesus John will make you uncomfortable
26:27he will lay bare your sin he will cause you to feel grief
26:34and he might even remind you of the reproach that comes because of sin and iniquity but fear not don’t let that
26:42shake you because John has come to prepare us for the arrival of Christ who has not come to condemn us not in his
26:50first Advent he has come to save us our King is going to come well in diapers
26:58small and humble and obedient and he will go all the way to the cross
27:04to bear your reproach so that you do not have to bear it on the last day
27:10so as we consider this first Advent message the sermon
27:16series on the Angels note then hey Gabriel brought good news
27:23and in kindness he helped zechariah’s unbelief and now
27:28let me come back to this God helps our unbelief too
27:34if you struggle with believing that you are forgiven or struggling with knowing that God hears your prayers you’re not
27:42alone many Christians struggle with these things but take heart Christ is here to assure you and comfort
27:49you that you are forgiven in him and that you are reconciled to the father because of all that he has done for you
27:57so you too can cry out Lord I believe help my unbelief
28:03and he will help you he will not send you away and say well you better sort that out yourself and don’t you dare
28:09come to church until you got that worked out instead he welcomes you here to hear his
28:15words and take note let the words sink in and let your fears Melt Away
28:23to the comfort and confidence that is in Christ for you that you are forgiven
28:28because of his great sacrifice on the cross for your sins and he is not here to condemn you he’s here to save you and
28:36he promises to give you eternal life as a gift you do not need to fear Christ in
28:42his first Advent he’s come to give you comfort and forgiveness mercy and
28:48Reconciliation hang on to those words and note the pattern when God speaks his
28:54words come true even if it’s through an angel or an apostle or a prophet and he has assured us that we are forgiven in
29:00him and it is absolutely true so we need not bear our reproach alone
29:08and we can be forgiven so let us then have our unbelief give way to belief as
29:16God helps us in the name of Jesus Amen
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